Giving Your Heart to a Dog
The time seems to be drawing near again. I can just sense it. She took my heart... as they always do. I can tell the time is coming. She's going to tear my heart like the others did. She'll bring back the memories and the images. She'll put me in a time machine, and I'll come out of it a different man... closer in heart to the boy I used to be. That's what they do. That's why boys grow up with dogs. That's why old men still have them.
There's something in boys, possibly a common chapter in development; maybe a code of genetics, or simply a learned behavior... I don't know. Boys easily latch onto dogs. I remember only a few of the dogs sharing the old yellow family photos that survived my childhood, but the ones I remember were so much a part of the family that home wasn't home without them. Kite flying wasn't kite flying without the dog next to me on the green hillside four blocks from my Orange County home. Television, radio, "hot wheels" cars, and little green army men were fun... but the dog was always there... the hairy pillow... the cookie crumb mess cleaner-upper. The perfect listener.
A dog is a boy's friend. Now I'm not referring to the canines raised for fighting or killing; although I'm sure those are someone's friend too. No, I mean the dogs raised like children, with children and inside the home. The dogs that know your language, but just can't pronounce the words as well... though they try. They make themselves understood very well, thank you... during family time, under the dinner table, and at the back door. They absolutely know how to play.
Dogs and boys just fit together nicely. A boy's first experience with sharing his heart is usually with a dog. Well... first Mom, and then the dog, I suppose. Dogs are one of God's ways of teaching a kid how to love and protect. Dogs do those things freely, and if a boy learns these things well, he'll usually have a better chance at a successful adult life. If he doesn't learn how to love and protect, a boy becomes a dangerous man. And dangerous men then put a tragic fingerprint of their own on society.
More Lessons Learned (and never learned)
As a boy becomes a man the learning never ceases. The same lessons day after day... how to love and protect; how to listen; how to be a friend; how to play and how to work; how to deal with loss, and pain and death. We learn these things from family, friends and even enemies. But God often uses dogs to teach us those same lessons. Sometimes a man "never quite gets it". Those guys are the dangerous ones.
Sometimes I wonder why it's so important to God that I "learn" some of these lessons again and again and again. I think "I get it". I don't believe I'm a danger to anyone. As the cold weather sets in, and the leaves drop in the yard, I see the dog moving slowly and sleeping constantly. I hear the sounds of pain. I know it's drawing near. I know the time is coming. I feel it. I've learned this lesson before; so why again? Perhaps the question is... why did I choose several years ago to reach this point again? I know it is written that sometimes we entertain angels without knowing it. Could some of them be sent here (under-cover) to teach us these lessons of loving, caring and protecting? And even the hard lessons of pain, and loss and death? I wonder.
"The Power of The Dog"
Rudyard Kipling tells the story well in this poem he called The Power of the Dog :
There is sorrow enough in the natural way
From men and women to fill our day;
And when we are certain of sorrow in store,
Why do we always arrange for more?
Brothers and Sisters, I bid you beware Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.
Buy a pup and your money will buy
Love unflinching that cannot lie --
Perfect passion and worship fed
By a kick in the ribs or a pat on the head.
Nevertheless it is hardly fair To risk your heart for a dog to tear.
When the fourteen years which Nature permits
Are closing in asthma, or tumour, or fits,
And the vet's unspoken prescription runs
To lethal chambers or loaded guns,
Then you will find -- it's your own affair -- But . . . you've given your heart to a dog to tear.
When the body that lived at your single will,
With its whimper of welcome, is stilled (how still!)
When the spirit that answered your every mood
Is gone -- wherever it goes -- for good,
You will discover how much you care, And will give your heart to a dog to tear.
We've sorrow enough in the natural way,
When it comes to burying Christian clay.
Our loves are not given, but only lent,
At compound interest of cent per cent.
Though it is not always the case, I believe,
That the longer we've kept'em, the more do we grieve;
For, when debts are payable, right or wrong,
A short-time loan is as bad as a long --
So why in -- Heaven (before we are there) Should we give our hearts to a dog to tear?
A "Boy" and his Dog
Epilogue: The Time Has Come and Gone
She lived well into her advanced years. Part of the family miracles and madness. Willing and happy to help us grieve the loss of her predecessor. Willing and happy to raise children and grandchildren. If we talked loud, in joy or in argument, she joined in. She tolerated a roaring fireplace... from the other room. She had a very real smile. She died quietly as the grandchildren played, unaware, in the other room.
I've buried too many dogs over my lifetime... I carry scars from the fitful passing of some of those dear friends. And the memories of their lives, and their deaths linger still. I am haunted by the losses.
I laid her amidst the flowers, green grass and rocks in the garden this past cold winter. The house is just too quiet some evenings, and I have to go sit in the garden to talk. I don't know if I can, but I think it's only natural for this man to give his heart to another dog. In my advancing years, I still have a lot to learn.
Part of the Family... They're Too Much Fun
- ASPCA | Official Site for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
The ASPCA works to rescue animals from abuse, pass humane laws and share resources with shelters nationwide. Learn more about what we do, and join our fight today!
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